Information Literacy, Transliteracy, and other literacies

[Note: I originally posted this on Dalhousie University’s School Of Information Management blog.  It’s only a few quick words meant to introduce others to one of the biggest information literacy debates in 2010/11.]

This winter and spring, the library blogosphere has buzzed around the idea of transliteracy, which broadly encompasses critical thinking and writing (or perhaps “synthesizing”) across a multitude of formats and devices.  You can read more about digital literacy at:

The incorporation of transliteracy into our definition of information literacy is either controversial or welcome news.  Some people see it only as the flavour of the month, while others believe that the arguments behind transliteracy should have been developed long ago and that librarians are still trying to catch up with the implications of our changed information society.   Regardless of what you believe, Bobbi Newman of the Libraries and Transliteracy blog must be commended for starting an information literacy discussion that has asked our profession what we do as instructors, what it is we instruct, and how we well may be doing it.
Personally, I see a lot of merit in broadening our understanding of IL to incorporate the arguments made by transliteracy advocates.  However, I also worry that we may be spending too much time thinking about what to call our paradigms instead of properly researching their implications and incorporating them into practice.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve always considered myself to be “tech-savvy”, but I’ve always believed that our notions of information literacy would naturally incorporate information regardless of its medium, both before and after it’s synthesized into knowledge.  Whether we call this subject “transliteracy” or “information literacy,” our focus must be on improving (information) literacy levels amoung our users.  As librarians, we don’t “teach” information literacy so much as we teach people how to find and evaluate information effectively, and how to improve people’s ability to turn that information into their own knowledge.

Having said all that, I believe that transliteracy is a subject that should be followed by any librarian who is concerned with how their patrons interact with their materials.  Thus far, transliteracy has produced incredible research and opinion within LIS.  It’s given us a chance to share our expertise and opinion on education and pedagogy with a wider community of scholars and practitioners.  Don’t forget the term, “transliteracy.”  It’s not just a buzzword, and it has implications that are here to stay.

2 thoughts on “Information Literacy, Transliteracy, and other literacies”

  1. […] Michael Steelworthy provides an update to the latest term to hit the library science literature: “transliteracy.” “Personally, I see a lot of merit in broadening our understanding of IL to incorporate the arguments made by transliteracy advocates.  However, I also worry that we may be spending too much time thinking about what to call our paradigms instead of properly researching their implications and incorporating them into practice.” […]

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